Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Anime St. Louis 2013: Reveiw for Artists



Here's the disclaimer again:
This review is not about the convention. It is simply an opinionated review from an artist's perspective to reference for anyone interested in attending the artist alley.


So here we have my third year at ASTL and it was the best weekend evaaarrr. I had a blast and made record breaking sales again this year so here we go.
 

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Venue: Gateway Center

ASTL is held every year at the same fantastic venue. If you know where this is, skip and move on. The Gateway Center is located in Collinsville, IL a little more than a half hour drive from St. Louis. It’s gigantic, offers plenty of free parking, and is surrounded by hotels and fast food. There are also 2 concession areas that sell snacks and hot food for decent prices so you never have to go too far for food. I love it there. They also always have a loading dock open for vendors and artists for easy access. Don’t have to walk through all those attendees with your gigantic boxes!

Some years you share the center with another event but I don’t think that happened this year. I didn’t travel out of the AA much but last year there was a Mommy-con on the other side and that was awkward.

Artist/Dealer Space:They've Got It Down

ASTL is one of those conventions that actually puts effort into designing an effective AA/dealer layout. Artists and dealers are in the same space but clearly divided with artists lined up on the right and dealers on the left. Each artist space is actually a 6’x8’ booth, clearly separated by waist high black queues. Also included are an 8’ table (AWESOME), 2 chairs, 2 badges, and a trash can. I never truly appreciated the trash can until I went to a show where there was only one for the entire hall.

Last year, all the spaces were parted by these really tall curtains but this year they opted for ones that were a little over waist high. It was much nicer because you could see clear across the alley at all the displays and signs. Window shopping was much easier and window shopping is all you’ll get in this AA, but more on that later.

Another problem from last year was the booth spaces were crammed together so artists were crawling out from under their tables to go to the bathroom or walk around. This year there was easily at least a foot of space on either side of every table. It’s nice to know that the con staff pay attention when we say something isn’t working. That’s a big plus because that means ASTL is actively making themselves better every year however they can. Totally worth the $75.

The room does lock up at night so you don’t have to tear down and tote your stuff around. I have never heard of a security or theft problem in the AA or dealer’s area so that’s good news.

There’s also plenty of space for traffic. The aisles were at least 8 ft (?) wide. Maybe more. But even with that much space, the AA was packed which was fantastic! The size of the AA is pretty big for a 3,200 person con and there’s plenty of artists to browse and shop from.

Variety: The Best of Everything

In my opinion, ASTL is the most popular con from the St. Louis area. From what I’ve seen, it draws a larger, more diverse crowd and the AA rarely suffers. Artists include many print artists of different styles and talents, comic artists, crafters, costumers and the whole shaboodle. Aside from variety, they also do a great job picking their artists through a juried system.

There are a bunch of us regulars who go every year and have a small but steadily growing fanbase returning every spring to see what’s new. Artists who are first timers at ASTL always get the love too and most want to come back again. Everyone’s got great attitude, perhaps because it’s hard to be sour when business is doing so well. This year the only thing I had a hard time finding was someone selling lots of stickers. Buttons also seemed to be fewer than last year and jewelry was almost nonexistent aside from me. 

There were new awesome booths selling giant cuttlefish plushies, miniature comics, and even custom cast fangs. There’s definitely something for everyone between the artists and dealers (or a lotta things for everyone).

Sales and Attendees: Lunches and Breaks are for the Meek
Attendees were fantastic. I know a lot of people who only attend ASTL and save up all year round for it. I also love to see people from Kawa or Natsu come back to say hi. The crowd is gigantic and vastly diverse so expect someone from every fandom.

If you think your original work won’t be appreciated, think again. ASTL isn’t one of those conventions that just dumps fan art. The people who go and peruse the AA truly appreciate the art. I’d say my print says were 50/50 original and fan art. Even if they don’t buy, no one holds back the compliments.

Sale were, as usual, amazing. Unless an artist manages to screw themselves somehow through travel or hotel costs, it’s impossible to not break even. Every year I break sales records at ASTL and this year was no different. You’re so busy handling conversations, transactions, requests, and commissions that lunch is like a far off dream. I don’t think we had any down time that lasted more than a few minutes before someone came over to at least talk.

Tip: you need a table buddy. The booth already comes with 2 badges, drag a friend along to at least help you keep things running because it gets busy as all hell in between major events. I think at one point, I was working on a request and answering questions from two different people while my husband was handling transactions for three different people at once. Insane.

Staff Attitudes:   :D

I’m not going to write anything here because the staff are professional and amazing and this hasn’t changed the slightest in three years.

I will write about something new that staff did for the artist alley this year. They started a system that gives first registration priority to artists from previous years. Oh and it’s real cordial too, makes you feel special and all that. Obviously this is great for returning artists like me because it practically guarantees us a spot if we want it. Don’t fret if you’re not on this list, they open applications to the public after a reasonable amount of time and plenty of other artists still get in. I think this means the staff love us.

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So after 3 years, nothing has diminished my opinion of ASTL. I’ve heard horror stories about terrible staff or afterthought-artist-alleys in parking garages and insane policies (zero tolerance for any fan art!) that have taken down the mightiest of conventions, but you won’t find that here. Anime St. Louis puts the AA relatively high on the list of priorities and being a part of this con is a wonderful experience over and over again. If you’re thinking about doing it, keep an eye out for the 2014 app because it’s totally worth it.

I LOVE ANIME SAINT LOUIS!
Man you'd think they were paying me to be this positive. 

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